Energy efficiency aims to reduce energy consumption without deteriorating the level of service and therefore reduce economic, ecological and social costs. Professionals in this field are very familiar with the issue, but how do American citizens perceive energy efficiency? How do they go about saving energy in their households? Are they prepared to make sacrifices and change their habits? And how do they view energy efficiency, as compared with citizens in France, England and Germany? Rexel, a leading worldwide distributor of electrical supplies, called on Harris Interactive to ask a representative population from the United States, France, England, and Germany for their answers to these key questions.

The results of the survey reveal that, for most people, energy efficiency is important and requires action. In fact, respondents from all four countries see the subject of energy efficiency as important: between 86% and 95% of respondents judge the subject as important, of which nearly two-thirds say it is “very important”.

The survey also found that Americans consider themselves responsible for electrical efficiency and its promotion. They have already adopted some new habits and select applications according to their energy consumption. The issue of energy efficiency also appears to be inextricably linked to financial considerations. 54% of Americans cited the excessively high price of low-energy products as an obstacle in becoming more energy efficient. Consumers are keen to invest in order to reduce their electricity bills as long as they can measure the impact, and see the return on their investment.

Among all respondents, nine out of ten citizens view energy efficiency as an “important” issue, but after looking at the data they only have a superficial understanding of the measures already taken.

Although Americans are aware of energy efficiency issues, and believe they are informed about the measures taken in their country, their knowledge is actually somewhat limited. In the U.S. three out of four people claim to have heard that incandescent light bulbs are being phased out, but only 46% know exactly what the incandescent lamp phase out is. Similarly, in the U.S., 88% of respondents have heard of the Federal and State Government tax incentives related to home heating and ventilation systems and renewable energy devices, however, only 34% of them know exactly what it is.

U.S. respondents said that improving energy efficiency is justified for three important reasons: the desire to reduce expenses (97% said good reason, of whom 75% consider this to be a very good reason); the guarantee of energy security (95% said good reason, of whom 53% believe this to be a very good reason); environmental protection (91% said this was a good reason).

“This survey shows that we are moving towards a new energy model, says Chris Hartmann, CEO of Rexel Holdings USA. "As market leader, Rexel is particularly involved in accelerating change through innovative solutions and education that informs our clients how to adopt eco-efficient solutions. As a distributor we continue to play a driving role in energy efficiency issues within the electrical field. It is also important for people to know that energy efficiency is not a one size fits all approach. Everybody can do their part even on the smallest level by simply upgrading to energy efficient light bulbs, but Americans should know that there are solutions available to accommodate varying levels of budget and energy objectives.”

American respondents also said that while they pay attention to their energy consumption (89%), many lack information about practical steps they can take towards improving their own energy efficiency. Only 33% regularly defrost their freezer and refrigerator, 52% fill the washing machine to the top before starting the wash cycle and 56% shut off electronic devices rather than switching to stand-by.

Americans are very aware of energy efficiency issues and to some extent have already changed their everyday habits to save energy. For example: 69% of Americans purchase low energy light bulbs and 64% use power strips.

As far as investments are concerned, 72% of Americans have already, or are willing to, install an environmentally-friendly hot water system, and 75% would consider installing an eco-efficient heating system.

Respondents say they would make three types of effort to improve their energy efficiency: efforts in terms of time (76% in France, 82% in the UK, 75% in the USA), investment in equipment that is more expensive to buy but with long-term savings (69% in France, 78% in the USA), or giving up certain comforts (71% in the UK, 61% in France, 52% in the USA). Respondents were interested in the impact on their personal finances and tended to be torn between spending less in the short term and investments that reduce energy costs in the short and medium term.

For 85% of American’s, distributors of electrical material have an important role to play in the promotion of electrical efficiency. Rexel is committed to promoting electrical efficiency by actively participating in debates and discussing the industry’s standpoints, but also by training and informing installers via its 2,200 outlets and the www.electrical-efficiency.com website.